The Effects of Industrialism on America

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On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top three floors of a ten-story building in New York. On those three top floors was a sweatshop with about 500 workers, mostly made up of young Jewish and Italian immigrant women, making ladies’ blouses. As the fire roared, the girls tried to make their escape. However, this proved to be nearly impossible, as the owners had locked the doors to the stairwell “discouraging theft and unauthorized bathroom breaks”. Firefighters tried to put the fire out, but their high-pressure hoses could only do so much, and the ladders that they possessed could only reach the sixth floor. In a response to the fire, a New York newspaper wrote “Spectators saw, again and again, people companionships formed in the instant of death. Girls who placed their arms around each other and leaped ten floors to the pavement or impaled themselves on the guardrails.” The girls had nowhere to go. Forty-six bodies lay on the pavement while an additional 100 were discovered inside the building.

This was not the first time that the Triangle Shirtwaist Company contributed to the era’s labor history. In 1909 after 200 Triangle workers tried to join the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, the women were fired by the owners. This is what sparked the walkout of female garment workers in 1909. The walkout shed some light on the social divisions that had haunted the United States during the Progressive era (the first two decades of the twentieth century). An important alliance was formed between indigent immigrants and middle and upper-class female supporters. The strikers demanded improved safety in clothing factories. After the strike ended early, the ILGWU had won contracts with over 200 firms. As a result of the Triangle fire, fifty-six new safety in the workplace laws were passed by the New York state legislature.

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In Progressive America, it became apparent that traditional gender roles were changing dramatically. Immigrant and native women were working for wages, although black women mainly worked as domestics or in cotton fields, which became a symbol of female emancipation. Young immigrant working women developed a sense of independence, as union leader Abraham Bisno so eloquently put it, “They acquired the right to a personality…” Industrialization gave women the opportunity to find their independence. Women were no longer confined to their homes, they went out in the workplace and demanded a role in society. This created a problem between immigrant parents and their daughters. leads

It was the robber baron class that showed the great divide in an America without an unregulated marketplace. There was an ongoing question if industrial leaders were pushing the economy forward with their visions, or if they took advantage of the unregulated marketplace and wielded power without any accountability. Their dictatorial attitudes and corrupt methods answered the question for most. The economy’s growth was distributed very unevenly between classes. The majority of industrial labor workers faced economic insecurity. The factories were extremely dangerous. Between sixty -three 1880 and 1900 an average of 35,000 workers died each year in factories or mines. For families to survive, each needed to earn an income. The atrocious working conditions in factories and sweatshops, after a reporter of the Chicago Times, published an article titled “City Slave Girls”. This triggered an outpouring of letters to the editor from women workers. A woman working in domestic service wrote that she was living a “slaves life, long hours, late and early, seven days of the week, bossed and ordered as before the war.”

Industrialization leads to the production of new machinery (Reapers, automatic wire binders, threshing machines, mechanical planters, mechanical cutters for leads, huskers, and shellers, cream separators, manure spreaders, and potato planters). With the mass production of this machinery, the American farmer was able to produce agricultural products not only for the increased demand but also for leadsexcess wheat, corn, cotton, beef, pork, and wool. There were other contributions as well such as the increased amount of farmland due to the Westward expansion. Farmers tried to use the influx of new machinery to their advantage. However, the mechanization of agriculture lead to overproduction. The prices of cropssixty-three dropped and farmers were getting less for their products, paying higher taxes, and had high rates for transportation.

In the year 1800 ninety percent of America’s population were farmers. The percentage began decreasing. By 1860, the percentage dropped to on, and by 1920 only twenty percent of Americans were farmers. With the number of farmers decreasing, the weight of taxes was placed more and more upon their shoulders. In the early eighteenth and nineteenth-century century, people paid income tax at the state level which was based upon how much land and livestock they, owned. As more Americans made money outside of agriculture, it did not make sense that America’s tax system was based on an agricultural economy. Farmers began lobbying for federal income tax. There was a great divide because the wealthy often paid little to no taxes while farmers had high taxes. Then in 1913, when the sixteenth amendment is ratified, it gave the power to the federal government to tax incomes. Everybody had to pay their fair share of taxes, including the Robber Baron class, which most Americans approved of.

In the late 1870s the Farmers’ Alliance was founded in Texas. The Alliance was the largest citizens’ movement of the nineteenth century. By 1890 the Alliance had spread to forty-three states. The Alliance wanted to improve rural (Change this word) conditions by the cooperative financing and marketing of crops. A proposal that shifted the Alliance towards politics came into question when the Alliance would loan money to farmers and sell their produce. The farmers could not finance this plan and the bank refused to give loans toward the exchanges. The alliance needed the help of the establishesongress to pass their plan that the federal g1890and  establish warehouses where farmers could store their crops until they were sold.

Early in the 1890’s1890and, leads excess the People’s Party emerged from the Alliance. The People’s Party was appealing to farmers and all producing classes alike. Populists spread their message through pamphlets, speakers that were sent throughout rural America, and established more than 1,000 local newspapers. In an article written by the People’s Party Paper of Georgia in 1893,  it was said that “Day by day, the power of the individual sinks. Day by day the power of the classes, or the corporations rises… In all essential respects, the republic of our fathers is dead.” Industrialism left no room for the individual. The corporations and classes did rise, the lowest classes being the immigrant workers and the highest the Robber Baron class. A few southern state Populists made outstanding efforts to connect both black and white small farmers on a common political and economic program. The many obstacles that the alliance faced may be partly due to the fbecausenoticeableact that racism was prevalent, and large numbers of white Populists were landowning farmers while blacks were tenants and laborers. This led to an organization called the Colored Farmers’ Alliance. The division between white and blacks increased the division of classes. Unity between farmers would have created a stronger class. However racial tensions got in the way of this.

Public discussion was dominated by whispers of superior and inferior classes. It is here that Social Darwinism begins noticeably to spread throughout America. Evolution was being applied to society. One of America’s influential Social Darwinists was William Graham Sumner, a professor at Yale. In 1883 Sumners wrote the book What Social Classes Owe to Each Other. Sumner said that social classes owe nothing to one another. He also stated that the government was only there to protect “the property of men and the honor of women.” The government was not meant to “upset social arrangements decreed by nature.” There was a great rise in both wealth and poverty, class divisions became more and more noticable. While the rich had exclusive social clubs, schools, and colleges, the urban poor lived in dark, airless, overcrowded tenement houses. Immigrants endured low wages, long hours, and dangerous working conditions. Immigrants were at the very bottom of the classes. Native-born workers dominated skilled and managerial jobs while the immigrants performed low-wage unskilled labor.

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The Effects of Industrialism on America. (2022, May 15). Retrieved from

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